In a joint letter, the Hands on the Land Alliance has called upon European States and the EU to join the efforts of the UN Intergovernmental Working Group (IGWG) and to start negotiating actively and constructively towards a meaningful human rights treaty on Transnational Corporations (TNCs) and other businesses.
Below you can read the letter we sent to Mr. Lambrinidis, the European Union’s Special Representative for Human Rights, with copies to: Ms Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the ministers of Foreign Affairs of EU Member States, national COHOM delegates and the COHOM chair.
Until now Transnational Corporations (TNCs) and other business have escaped international regulation and ensured, that they face nothing but guidelines and unenforced policies when it comes to States’ obligations to protect human rights. It is of historic significance that the UN Human Rights Council is now calling on governments to work on a human rights treaty to regulate TNCs and other business.
Our governments and the EU are always very active when it comes to agreements to protect investors or trade in order to increase corporate profit to the detriment of human rights and peoples’ sovereignty. Now that a treaty is up for negotiations that would regulate TNCs and other business, they have been boycotting the negotiations. It is high time now for a policy change and for the European States and EU to join the negotiations for a human rights treaty on TNCs and other business enterprises.
European governments have responded to previous requests of this nature by raising stereotype concerns. In the following petition we want to send a strong signal that these concerns are not genuine and that we see the European States instead trying to evade their obligations to protect the enjoyment of human rights against TNCs and other business.
In order to avoid further political damage at home and abroad, European States and the EU should join the IGWG efforts and start negotiating actively and constructively towards a meaningful human rights treaty on TNCs and other business.
Dear Mr Lambrinidis,
We, the undersigned organisations members of the Hands on the Land for Food Sovereignty alliance, would like to protest against the absence so far of the EU and its Member States from the negotiations on a UN Treaty on Transnational Corporations (TNCs) and other business enterprises with respect to human rights, and against other European States limiting themselves to the role as observers. The States’ human rights obligation to protect implies binding rules of cooperation between States and regulatory measures on TNCs and other business jointly and separately imposed on TNCs and other business.
There are no convincing arguments for the European States and the EU to stay away from these negotiations. Contrary to previous arguments by some European States and the EU,
- the UN Intergovernmental Working Group (IGWG) has confirmed the importance of the framework underlying the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. A key principle is the States’ human rights obligation to protect against TNCs and other business. It is obvious that such obligation includes not only soft measures in a spirit of “partnership with business”, but also legally binding regulation
- the trivial fact that local business can also harm the enjoyment of human rights makes States’ effort to focus on TNCs in an international treaty neither illegitimate nor inappropriate. The human rights challenges posed by TNCs have been extensively documented and need – by the very nature of TNCs – an international response. The European States can and must play a constructive role in this context
- for obvious reasons, the UN IGWG process has to be guarded against undue influence by TNCs and other business. European States must not involve TNCs in such negotiations, but exercise their powers of regulation independently and in accordance with the human rights of people victimised by business enterprises. A repetition of questionable arguments and a continued policy of non-participation could increasingly give the impression that the respective European States and the EU put the profit interests of TNCs above human rights obligations.In order to avoid further political damage at home and abroad, European States and the EU should join the IGWG efforts at its second session, October 24-28, 2016, and start negotiating actively towards a meaningful human rights treaty on TNCs and other business enterprises.
The Hands on the Land Alliance (Crocevia, FIAN International and its sections in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria and Sweden, Eco Ruralis, EHNE Bizkaia, FDCL, ECVC, IGO, Terra Nuova, TNI, Védegylet and ZaZemiata)